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Need a one-stop shop to catch up on the top sports stories big and small? Time Out For Sports airs Mondays on WFAE's "All Things Considered" and has what you need to know about everything from Charlotte-area high school football highlights to the latest updates on the Carolina Panthers.

Spring Football Is In the Air

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Providence Day School
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It's Time Out for Sports! The NFL season is now over, but high school football is just beginning in North Carolina. With Sarah Delia to talk football, basketball and swimming is Langston Wertz Jr., a longtime sportswriter for the Charlotte Observer.

Sarah Delia: Hey, Langston.

Langston Wertz Jr.: Hey, Sarah. How are you?

Delia: Good, thanks. First, I want to hear your thoughts on the Super Bowl.

Jim Nantz: "One more snap. Would you have guessed when this impossible season was trying to launch that you'd get it all and you'd get to Tampa and win the Super Bowl and then the ball would be in the hands of Tom Brady."

Wertz: It was not very competitive. Tom Brady and the Bucs had a home game and played really well. And they had a great game plan for Kansas City and put a lot of pressure on Kansas City. And Kansas City losing its two outside linemen were big factors in the game. Mahomes just, quarterback Patrick Mahomes, had no time to pass. And it just, you could tell early on was a game that was going to be really hard for them to win.

Delia: In North Carolina, high school football practices are underway for an abbreviated spring season. What do you expect from this season?

Wertz: What do I expect from this season? I think it's going to start slow. But I think, you know, basketball season is going to end shortly after they get started. They're going to have the stage to themselves. So this could end up being a pretty special season, trying to look at it glass half full. I'm glad the kids are getting a chance to play.

Delia: Well, what about COVID-19 protocols? Are there any special protocols that teams are going to be practicing under or playing under that are of note?

Wertz: The biggest thing is going to be the fans. They're only letting 100 fans in. And from what I'm hearing, it's only going to be 100 fans on the home team. So if your kid's playing at another school, you cannot go and you have to watch on streaming.

Delia: Is there anything of note when it comes to what it might take to get a practice or a game canceled under COVID-19 restrictions?

Wertz: Oh, absolutely. The biggest thing, it's like in basketball, is the contact tracing thing. I mean, there was a school, Providence Day, they played Covenant Day in basketball. There was a player on Providence Day that ended up getting COVID-19. They played him on Friday. He got it the following Monday. So everybody on Covenant Day's team he had come in contact with, which was their starting five plus his team had to sit out two weeks. Covenant Day kept playing but they were playing with their backups and JV guys who didn't do so well. So those type of things will come into effect for high school football. You know, if a guy on your team is found to have COVID everybody he came in contact with on the other team, plus your team all sit out. So it could cause some sticky situations, particularly in a seven-game season. And there's no way to make up football games.

Delia: In the past, it's been common for top seniors who landed scholarships to graduate early and enroll early in college so they can participate in spring practices. What about this year? Is high school football going to be missing some of its top seniors?

Wertz.: Yeah, I mean, a lot of them have already gone away. I mean, we lost I would say, you know, the top 25 seniors, we probably lost 22 or 23 of them. There are very few sticking around. I did a story about Eddie Czaplicki from Providence High School. He's a top ten recruit as a kicker and a punter, he's going to Arizona State. And I asked him why he did not go to school because he said Arizona State didn't have spring practice last year. There's no guarantee they'll have spring practice this year. So why not just stay home and train? But that's not the case with a lot of the other seniors. They've gone away. So there's definitely going to be an interesting year. These juniors now almost going to get two senior seasons. They're going to get to be the man this year and they're going to get to be the man again in the fall. And so it's going to be interesting for them.

Delia: Well, let's move over to college basketball.

Dan Schulman: "Another installment of Duke and Carolina."

Delia: Another big game this weekend, the North Carolina Tar Heels beat the Duke Blue Devils 91 to 87. What did we learn from this game?

Wertz: Well, we learned that when Caleb Love and Tar Heels get really good play from their guards. They can be as good as anybody in the country. Caleb Love had one of the three best games a Tar Heel guard has ever had in Durham against the Blue Devils. And that was very impressive, I think. Twenty-five points. Eight assists. He was fantastic. And the Tar Heels seem to kind of be finding their footing and getting a little bit of a run. Leaky Black, Concord native, was 4 out of 4 had 12 points. Played a really solid game. Duke doesn't look like an NCAA tournament team. They dropped to .500. But when these two teams meet each other, you know, the world kind of stops for that second and it didn't feel good and it felt a little normal in COVID world, even without fans in Durham to see Carolina/Duke play the battle of the blues.

Delia: And finally, the North Carolina High School regional swim meets happened recently. This received a lot of attention because for a time, CMS swimmers and divers were not allowed to participate, even though the event was in Huntersville. An outcry led to CMS reopening sports this week. How did CMS swimmers do? And were there notable performances from other schools in the region?

Wertz: CMS did phenomenal. I mean, they dominated. There were hardly any notable performances from anybody else because CMS teams did so well. The top ten in both the boys and girls was dominated by Charlotte schools. The Hough girls ran away with it. The South Meck boys won a tight race against Myers Park. All three of those teams will be favored to win state championships next week. And you know, it's amazing because they were not able to practice just like Providence's volleyball team got to the state championship game, even though they were not allowed to practice.

I know a lot of people feel some kind of way, to be honest with you, about the decision CMS made to bench those kids and then let them come back. It also affects the basketball teams because they've been out for two weeks. They're coming back today and they're going to play fewer games than their competition. But it just speaks to the level of dedication, level of coaching, the level of want-to these local kids have to continue to do well in sports. I wish them luck in the state finals next week.

Langston Wertz Jr. is a longtime sportswriter for the Charlotte Observer.